When a married couple in Florida has a baby, there is a legal presumption that the husband is also that child’s father. No such presumption exists when an unmarried woman bears a child. Even if the mother of the child has been in a long-term relationship with a particular man, there is no legal presumption made that the man is the baby’s father. In such situations it may become necessary to file a paternity suit in order to have a legal determination of the baby’s father. Paternity suits in the state of Florida have the potential to become contentious, both inside and outside the courtroom, and many of these cases can benefit from the skills of a Sarasota attorney from The Law Place.
The outcome of a paternity suit can have a significant impact on your life as well as the life and future of a child. We represent clients who are attempting to establish paternity as well as those who are refuting paternity and are skilled in the preparation of all necessary forms and documents required when requesting a paternity test through the legal system. Once paternity is established, our attorneys can assist in the necessary legal issues associated with filing for child support or establishing visitation rights.
Who Can File a Paternity Suit?
The unmarried mother of a baby or child may file a paternity suit against the man she has reason to believe is the father of the child. A man who believes he is the father of a child may also bring legal proceedings in order to determine paternity. In some cases the child may file a paternity suit against a man believed to be his or her father. There are several legal classifications of fathers including:
• Acknowledged father—exactly what it sounds like, the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents who freely admits he is the child’s father
• Presumed father—a man who was: married to the mother when the child was born or conceived, married the mother following the birth and agreed that his name would appear on the birth certificate or a man who welcomed the child into his home and presents the child as his own. Presumed fatherhood is the most contested category of fathers.
• Equitable father—a man who is neither the biological nor the adoptive father, however has a close relationship with the child. This type of classification is generally seen by a stepfather who has had many years of being a father to the child prior to a divorce.
• Unwed father—a man who is biologically a baby’s father, but chooses not to marry the baby’s mother. If an unwed father wants to retain his parental rights without court intervention, he should probably acknowledge paternity.
What is the Process for Establishing Paternity?
In short, paternity actions are filed in order to protect the child’s rights as well as to establish visitation, custody or child support. Legal rights such as social security benefits, veteran’s benefits or inheritance rights can also be an issue in establishing paternity. A paternity suit will generally include a paternity test which will analyze DNA collected via a blood test or a cotton swab which collects cells from the inside of the mouth. Should a man refuse to submit to a DNA test, the court may order him to do so or suffer legal consequences. The paternity suit begins when one person files a legal complaint; a copy of this complaint will then be sent to the person it is being filed against.
As with most civil complaints, the person served with the complaint has a certain amount of time to answer. A man who contests a paternity suit filed against him must deny paternity in the form of a legal answer to the complaint. If the mother of the child is currently receiving Florida public assistance, the state of Florida may initiate a paternity suit in order to recoup money from the biological father. The man believed to be the father of the child will be required to appear in court and must give a DNA sample; if he is, in fact, the father, an order will be entered which declares him as such and he will be legally obligated to support the child. As the proven biological father of the child, he will also have the parental rights afforded fathers.
Since Florida paternity suits deal with critical rights and obligations, they can be complex, requiring the services of an experienced attorney from The Law Place. Whether you are trying to establish or negate paternity, you will benefit from speaking to one of our skilled family law attorneys.